Taking Time Out When We Are All on Time-In

Taking Time Out When We Are All on Time-In

The last month has brought a ton of changes in all of our lives. We are spending a lot more time at home with our immediate family. There are benefits to this. And this is also a potentially stressful time for a lot of reasons. If we are all at home together, and everyone is feeling a little grumpy, anxious, or stressed at the same time, it makes it potentially difficult to defuse negativity before it grows into something that can feel overwhelming and end up in shouting matches, or tantrums, or tears, or all of the above. So what can you do to help prevent meltdowns?

    • Recognize build-ups. Do you feel tense? Are you clenching your teeth as your kid asks you yet another question about their online work? Or did you flinch when you heard your kids get into their millionth argument of the day? Maybe your child is starting to whine while they try their online work, or they seem jumpy and distracted while you are trying to get them to focus. These are all signs that you (and they) are building up energy that needs to be released. And it may also indicate that what you are doing right at now is not helping you get rid of that energy.

It is also super important to recognize that things that might not have bothered you in the past might annoy you right now. These are not normal times and with all the new and unusual things that we all have to deal with, our defenses against being irritated by little things are down. Don’t beat yourself up about that. Recognize that you feel this way and give yourself ways to alleviate the feelings.

    • Switch gears. When you feel energy building up inside (or notice it in others), it can really help to find a different activity, one that makes you feel good or calms you down. This could be breathing deeply, visualization techniques, singing your favorite song, having a mini dance party, reading a book, taking a bubble bath, going for walk–the possibilities are endless. But it helps to have a list of a few ideas so that you don’t have to think of something in the heat of the moment.

If you are helping your child to switch gears, this could include helping them to breathe deeply, having them play their favorite game, or even a short time with a calming program on the screen.

The point here is stop the activity that is causing you to feel negative energy building (even if you have to leave an argument right in the middle) and do something that makes you feel better and redirects that energy.  You can always go back to what you were doing when you don’t feel so much built-up negativity.

It may be hard to get time to yourself when we are all in our homes. It might help to name one room as the “alone time place” during the day. This could be a bedroom, or even the bathroom. The important thing here is to make sure that it is a safe place for kids to be alone. When someone is feeling like they need some time to themselves, they can go to this space and everyone needs to honor the agreement to leave that person alone.

    • Pick your battles. Maybe you have been trying to get your kids into the habit of putting their shoes under the bed at the end of the day. Sticking to this might help everyone to feel like there is still a routine in this time. Or it could be making your feel frustrated. If something is turning into a battle between you and your child or you and your partner or roommate(s), ask yourself how important it is for you to have this thing done right now. Even if it is a good goal in normal times, remember that these are not normal times. If it is not that important right now, maybe you can let it go for the moment. You can always come back to it later, when everyone is in a better space.

If you decide that something is important enough to keep focusing on it right now, then make sure you have a list of ideas to help keep yourself calm and positive. Also, you might make the goal smaller or break it into smaller steps. So maybe the shoes don’t have to be under the bed but do have to be in the kids’ rooms.

    • Reach out. We may not be able to see some of our family members and friends right now, but they are still out there. You can make plans to call, Facetime, video chat, etc. Sharing the fears and frustrations that we may be feeling right now can help to make them more manageable. Or, if you child is feeling a negative energy build-up, set up a call with their favorite friend of family member for them (and then spend that time doing something nice for yourself if you can).

If you start to feel overwhelmed or feel like you might hurt yourself or others, call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline at 1-800-273-8255 (you do not have to be suicidal to contact them) or text the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

This is a challenging time for everyone and it is calling for us to adapt in all sorts of ways. Remember to be kind to yourself and others during this time. We are going to get through this together, but sometimes it may help to take a little bit of time—apart– for yourself.

Text: © Kids In Transition to School 2020

Image: © Sam Wordley | Dreamstime.com

Katherine Pears
Dr. Katherine Pears is a senior scientist at Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC). She earned her Ph.D in clinical psychology and has worked with OSLC since 1998. Katherine is the principal investigator and co-developer of the Kids In Transition to Schools (KITS) program. Currently, she oversees all the clinical and research activities for KITS. When she’s not in her office, you’ll find Katherine in the kitchen whipping up her latest creation or outdoors hiking a scenic trail.

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